Most travellers who come to Pokhara have one thing in mind: trekking the Annapurna Circuit. This is a famous trek that runs through the Annapurna Mountain Range in Nepal and can take anywhere between 8-25 days to complete.
But that’s not what brought me to Pokhara; I had neither the gear nor the time (nor the stamina, to be perfectly honest!) to tackle that trek. Instead, I came to Pokhara to relax and it turns out this is a pretty good place to do so!
The Annapurna Mountains may get all the fame, but Pokhara offers a beautiful lakeside setting where you can unwind, soak in the natural beauty of the place, and spend a few days not doing much at all.
After a few busy days in Kathmandu, that was exactly what Sam and I were craving, so we booked bus tickets and endured a very long and bumpy journey to get there (they’ll tell you it’s 6 hours, but it really takes 8+ hours to get there with traffic and the road conditions).
The following is the non-hiker’s guide to Pokhara with a bit of sightseeing, tasty food stops, and plenty of lakeside chilling:
Tour the lake by boat
Phewa Lake is the town’s main attraction and one of the best ways to enjoy it is by hiring a colourful row boat to go out on the water.
There’s a little rental shop at the end of the boardwalk so you don’t even have to worry about bargaining. All the prices are listed according to what you want to do. Hire a rower or row yourself? A 30-minute tour or a 1-hour tour? A regular rowboat or a roofed one to shield you from the sun?
We hired a rower for 2-hours and he took us on a big counterclockwise loop around the lake. It was really cool when we reached the west side of the lake where it’s mostly wetlands because there’s a lot of wildlife – we saw quite a few eagles!
Visit the World Peace Pagoda
Rather than returning to back to the harbour, once our tour was done we asked to get dropped off at the start of the trail that leads up to the World Peace Pagoda. It was about a 30-minute hike to the top, and yes, this was the extent of our hiking in Pokhara!
Also known as the Shanti Stupa, this pagoda sits atop a hill overlooking the city, which means once you reach the top all sweaty and out of breath, you get some pretty cool views.
There are also a handful of restaurants just outside of the pagoda, so we stopped for a cup of tea (lemon, honey, ginger – a Nepali classic!) and a vegetarian thali set.
Once you’re done sightseeing there, you can hire a taxi to bring you back into town.
Eat the local dishes
One of our favourite restaurants in town was the Olive Cafe. They call themselves a European cafe with Nepali flavour, and we had some of our best meals there. There are two dishes in particular that I would recommend trying:
The first is Fish Choila (sometimes also written as Chhwela). This is a Newari dish that’s typically prepared with marinated buffalo meat, but the buffalo is swapped for fish in Pokhara since the city is right by a lake. It’s similar to a hot and spicy curry and it comes packed with flavour.
The second dish I would recommend trying there is the Pokhara Curry. Again, this dish is prepared with fish from the local lake and it is delicious! I wish I could tell you what they put in it, but the menu only said ‘a secret mix of spices’, so I don’t think they’re going to be divulging their secrets any time soon. We ordered this with a side of brown rice.
For dessert, they serve up a decadent Machhapuchhare Kiss. This is an ice cream cake named after one of the peaks in the Annapurna Mountains. The cake has a bottom cookie and chocolate layer, vanilla ice cream, and lots of chocolate sauce drizzled all over.
Lastly, if you haven’t had your fill of momos while travelling in Nepal, you’ll find that there is no shortage of restaurants serving up steamed dumplings.
Shop for Nepali souvenirs
Pokhara also turned out to be a great place to stock up on souvenirs and we ended up doing the bulk of our shopping here.
I picked up some breezy linen shirts and pants since we were travelling to India next, plus lots of little knick-knacks for our future home. You can find prayer bowls, prayer wheels, beaded jewellery, puppets, embroidered pillow covers, leather handbags, carved masks, pashminas, wooden sculptures, felt products, and so much more!
You’ll find that souvenir shops pretty much line Lakeside Road and also spill into the side streets, so have a good browse before you buy.
Chill out at the lakeside bars
The thing to do in Pokhara right around sunset is to go down to the waterfront. Here you’ll find a string of bars where you can listen to live music and grab a beer or a glass or wine (but usually a cup of tea for me since it was quite chilly out).
Some of our favourite spots along the waterfront were: Bamboo Bar, Purple Planet and Hightide. They were all great spots with their own vibe, but I particularly enjoyed Hightide because they brought in local musicians who sang a mix of Nepali songs and English cover songs.
Dabble in adventure sports
Right off the bat, I’m going to tell you that I didn’t do any of this, but if adventure sports are your thing, you’ve got plenty of options in Pokhara.
Just to give you an idea, you can go paragliding, whitewater rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping, motorbiking, or even flying on a microlight. There are lots of tour operators scattered across town, so this is really easy to arrange.
Paragliding is by far the most popular of these activities and every morning we could see a slew of paragliders swirling just off of Sarangkot, which also happens to be the place to catch sunrise.
Where I stayed
While in Pokhara, we stayed at Hotel Middle Path and Spa. The hotel is located in Lakeside, which is where you want to be as a traveller. Not only is this a scenic area, but you also have plenty of restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, tour operators, and everything you could possibly need for your stay.
Our hotel was located on Middle Path Street, which is a quiet side street off the main strip. The property felt like a mini oasis; they had a courtyard surrounded by vegetation, and I really enjoyed lounging on the day beds to the sound of a trickling waterfall. Also, if you end up staying there, don’t forget to go up to the rooftop for sunrise. The mountain peaks look like they are glowing when the first morning light hits them!
Hiking the Annapurna Circuit
Like I mentioned, I didn’t come to Pokhara to hike, but if you’re looking to tackle the Annapurna Circuit, here are some helpful articles written by fellow travel bloggers:
Annapurna Circuit: A Beginner’s Survival Guide by Nomadasaurus
The Annapurna Circuit: 11 Days on the Trail by Just a Pack
The Annapurna Circuit: Too Beautiful to Miss by Be My Travel Muse
26 Tips for trekking the Annapurna Circuit by The Yoga Nomads
Have you been to Pokhara?
How did you spend your time there?